In 1964, a British MP was running down the hall of the Parliament crying out ‘“the gnomes of Zurich” [who] were at work once again’. In the year, foreign exchange dealers expressed disappointment to the economic policies of the newly inaugurated Labour government; the speculation against British currency resulted in the crisis of sterling, one of the two prides of the United Kingdom. In order to placate the international financial community, the Labour government was forced to withdraw the social democratic policies; on 24 November, Labour MPs were informed that the scheduled increase in the old pension had been suspended. One of them protested, ‘[I]t is improper for the Government to prove its financial respectability to the international bankers and the IMF by denying the means of livelihood to the old page pensioners. Even under the post-war international monetary system of Bretton Woods, financiers or ‘international speculators’ were challenging a democratically elected government.
During the Eurozone Debt Crisis of early 2010s, in Davos, former Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou accused that ‘speculators’ were attacking Europe’s weak link and a few months later called for an end to ‘opportunistic speculation’ against his country at the European Parliament’s Special Committee on the Economic, Financial and Social Crisis. In the aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis of 2007-8, an antagonistic notion of finance appeared to resurface as the financial industry came to be perceived as the main driver of growing inequality as well as global instabilities, underpinning the emergence of populist politics across the globe.
The conference, to be held at the Graduate Institute Geneva, wishes to investigate from an interdisciplinary perspectivethe complex and multifaceted links connecting democracy and finance in the longue durée. What is the relationship between finance and democracy? Are they antagonistic or symbiotic? Is the former detrimental to the latter? What influence does the financial community exert in political affairs? For this event, organisers seek to invite scholarly discussions on the complex or nuanced relations between the two.
Contributions from multiple research perspectives (e.g. sociology; anthropology; history; economics; law; political science) might address, but are not limited to, the following questions:
- Case studies on tensions or harmony between finance and politics (democracy)
- Relations between national governments and global banks and international financial organisations
- Debates regarding the role of finance in national economies
- Popular or ideological understanding on finance, financiers, and financial markets (e.g. conspiracy theory, rentier capitalism, etc.)
- Economic sovereignty and cross-border capital movements
- Human rights and socially-responsible investments
- Central banks and democracy
The conference is generously supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), sponsor of the research project ‘Business with the Devil? Assessing the Financial Dimension of Authoritarian Regimes in Latin America, 1973-85’.The conference is hosted by the Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy in collaboration with the Department of International History and Politics and the Centre for Finance and Development at the Geneva Graduate Institute.
Maison de la Paix Geneve